Australia has a prominent discontinuity between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities. (Coag. gov. au. 2014) There is a pressing need for an Australian Indigenous Education Reform. This need for reform is especially necessary in remote and northern, socially disadvantaged Australian communities where attendance rates are low, along with low academic outcomes by Australian national standards. This reform needs to ensure consideration of Indigenous cultural needs and wants.
The aim of this paper is to discuss the disparity between Australian Indigenous and Non-Indigenous persons’ Education and make recommendations based on the effectiveness of current reforms in place to minimise the inequality between the two demographics. The paper will look at attendance statistics of school aged children in primary school and high school, completion statistics of highest school qualifications completed, highest non-school qualification obtained and employment statistics for full time and part time Indigenous and non- Indigenous workers The most recent government implemented strategy will be briefly evaluated. Along with this, recommendations will be made.
These suggestions can hopefully be modified and implemented in countries that have an inconsistency their in nationwide education statistics. Placing high importance on the improvement of Australia’s Indigenous and Non-Indigenous education disparities will create a ripple effect and improve Indigenous health and employment opportunities. Children who attend school on a daily basis will be exposed to health and wellbeing syllabus, putting their knowledge into practice within their community.
Indigenous Primary school children with regular attendance will have an easier transition into secondary school, with the improved likeliness of achieving a higher non-school qualification thus positively affecting the distribution of workers in society. For the purpose of this paper, the following tables bellow will be referred to and the information within will be used to support and stimulate discussion. INDIGENOUS SCHOOL ATTENDANCE RECORDINGS 3 TO 5 YEARS OF AGE AGE MAJOR CITY REMOTE AREA VERY REMOTE AREA 3 31% 12% 14% 4 63% 59% 55% 5 87% 77% 70% Table 1 Source: Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4713. 0).
This table shows the percentage of three to five year old Indigenous children attending an educational institution such as a preschool or primary school in a major city, remote or very remote area. As expected, the attendance decreases as remoteness increases. There isn’t much disparity with the four and five year old age group’s attendance, however less than half three year old Indigenous children in a major city attend an educational facility in a major city and then this figure almost halves again when looking at children in very remote areas.
INDIGENOUS SCHOOL ATTENDANCE RECORDINGS 15 TO 17 YEARS OF AGE AGE MAJOR CITY REMOTE AREA VERY REMOTE AREA 15 77% 67% 53% 16 60% 49% 34% 17 44% 29% 16% Table 2 Source: Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4713. 0) The results in this table are noticeably alarming. In remote and very remote areas, 50% or under of Indigenous teenagers from the ages of fifteen, sixteen and seventeen years are attending school. If only 16% of seventeen year old Indigenous students are attending high school, then there is a very low chance of young Indigenous persons graduating from the final year of high school.
In major cities, not even half of Indigenous seventeen year olds are attending high school. It’s highly unlikely that with an attendance rate is only 44% from seventeen year olds in major cities, that many of those students will continue on to complete a non-school qualification. HIGHTEST LEVEL OF SCHOOL COMPLETED BY INDIGENOUS SATUS AND AGE AGE GROUP 18-24 25-34 35-54 55 and over total Indigenous Highest Level (%) Year 12 or equivalent 32 28 15 8 19 Year 11 or equivalent 14 13 9 2 11 Year 10 or equivalent 25 26 34 16 28 Non-Indigenous Highest Level (%) Year 12 or equivalent 71 68 76 27 45.
Year 11 or equivalent 10 9 12 7 10 Year 10 or equivalent 13 16 29 26 24 Table 3 Source: Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006 (cat. no. 4713) The information gathered in the above table shows that the highest school level qualification of Indigenous people is Year 10 or the equivalent and for Non-Indigenous people its Year 12 or equivalent. As assumed, for Indigenous persons, the amount of Year 12 completions declines with age. Indicating that perhaps, programs put in place to support Indigenous education has been effective. However, overall, only 19% of Indigenous persons have completed Year 12.
Further studies showed that 14% of Indigenous people had completed Year 8 or the equivalent as their highest school qualification. This was exactly double the amount of Non-Indigenous persons who had completed Year 8 or the equivalent and only 5% lower than the amount of Indigenous persons who completed Year 12 or the equivalent. The disparity between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous young people (age 18 to 24 years) who have completed Year 12 of equivalent is a huge 40%.
These statistics of the highest school qualification received reflects on the results of highest non-school qualifications. . Indigenous (%) Non-Indigenous (%) Males Females Males Females Higher than a Bachelor degree 1. 0 1. 4 5. 9 5. 9 Bachelor degree 2. 9 5. 0 14. 3 16. 8 Advance Diploma or Diploma 3. 1 5. 3 7. 8 10. 3 Certificate III and IV level 15. 8 8. 3 25. 8 8. 5 Certificate I and II level 1. 4 2. 5 0. 7 1. 6 Certificate not further defined 1. 2 2. 0 1. 4 2. 7 Not stated or inadequately stated 17. 6 13. 9 6. 2 7. 3 No non-school qualifications 57. 1 61. 7 37. 9 46. 8 PERSONS AGED 26-64 YEARS WITH A NON-SCHOOL QUALIFICATION BY INDIGENOUS STATUS AND GENDER.
Table 4 Source: 2006 Census of Population and Housing, Australia, 2006 This table displays the non-school qualifications achieved by Indigenous and Non-Indigenous males and females. Following on from the highest school qualification results, it was not surprising to find that more Non-Indigenous Australians had received certificates III and IV, diplomas, advanced diplomas and Bachelor degrees or higher. It was disconcerting to note that more than 50% of Indigenous males and females had no non-school qualification. The majority of both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians had completed a certificate III or IV.
Further research showed that Indigenous persons living in major cities, when compared to those in regional or remote areas, were more than two and a half times more likely to complete a non-school qualification (39% and 15% respectively). However, strangely for Non-Indigenous persons with a non-school qualification in remote communities, there was not a disparity as larger between those that lived in major cities (58% for major cities and 48. 6% for remote areas. LABOUR FORCE STATUS BY INDIGENOUS STATUS Indigenous Total (%) Full Time Employment 27. 7 Part Time Employment 16. 6 Non-Indigenous Full Time Employment 50.
0 Part Time Employment 19. 1 Table 5 Source: 2006 Census of Population and Housing, Australia, 2006 The above is a small overview of the overall percent of full time and part time employment for Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians. ABSENTEEISM Days Absent Total Days School Terms Missed Years of School Missed 1 day per week 451 9 2 years, 1 term 1. 5 days per week 676. 5 13. 5 3 years, 1. 5 terms 2 days per week 902 18 4 years, 2 terms 3 days per week 1353 27 6 years, 3 terms 5 weeks per term 1127. 5 22 5 years, 2 terms Average 5 days per term 220 5. 5 1 year, 1. 5 terms Average 10 days per term 440 11 2 years, 3 terms ABSENTEEISM OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME Table 6 Source: Cycles For Success DETE, SA, 2002 p. 44. The above table calculates the impact of absenteeism over a long period of time, highlighting the severity of prolonged absenteeism. Even a child who only has 5 days off a term, every term can be affected; they will miss a total of 1 year and 1. 5 terms, that’s a lot of curriculum covered in that time. ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? An abridged version of Reasons for prolonged absenteeism from School attendance and retention Of Indigenous Australian students.
• Parental-condoned absenteeism, parents failing to accept their legal responsibilities • Poor parental/carer attitudes towards schools • Insufficiently valuing education • Inadequate welfare support practices, especially in the early years of schooling • Inconsistent approach to absenteeism between and within schools • Unsuitable curriculum for some pupils • Too few out-of-school/alternative curriculum places • Bullying, peer pressure, ‘cool’ to skip school • Lack of career aspirations and low self esteem • Inconsistent policies and practices of local schools, education welfare services and schools’ policy documents on attendance • Inconsistent referral policies between schools.
• Local unemployment, poverty, poor community facilities • Differences between boys’ and girls’ aspirations and achievements (Purdie & Buckley, 2010) MOST RECENTLY ANNOUNCED GOVERNMENT STRATERGY In December, 2013 Indigenous Affairs Minister Scullion released an announcement of a new two- year strategy to improve Indigenous school attendance. “A child attending school 70 per cent of the time is not receiving a proper education.
A recent COAG report on education showed there had been no improvement in attendance of Indigenous students over the past five years and in some areas it is going backwards. It is horrific to think that in the Northern Territory, only 13 per cent of kids are attending school 80 per cent of the time. This has to change. ” Minister Scullion said the two-year strategy, which is in addition to strategies discussed by COAG last week, would improve school attendance by engaging local people in each community to get kids to school. $28. 4 million will be provided over two years to: ?
Employ Attendance Supervisors to manage and develop up to five School Attendance Officers in each community ? Appoint School Attendance Officers through the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme (RJCP) to work with families to get kids to school. Five officers will be engaged for each 100 enrolled children (scaled to suit local situations) ? Provide support for children to attend school with funds from the Indigenous Communities Strategic Investment and Community Development Funds for uniforms, vehicles and office space” Schlievs, M. (2011). Evaluation of Two Year Strategy RECOMMENDATIONS Introduce vocational training within schools Vocational training should be encouraged at a school level.
It not only provides a post school pathway into a non-school qualification, but it provides incentive for everyday attendance and a valid reason to participate in school. Students who don’t intend on completing year 12 can obtain a non-school qualification before they leave high school, providing them with a means to enter a non- school qualification post-high school if they so wish. It will also allow students to go straight into employment post school. Schools can be set up to accommodate VET (Vocational Education and Training) and VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning).
These structured programs run in schools allow high school aged children to engage in ‘hands-on’ learning in the classroom with small assessment tasks leading to a certificate. Many Australian Indigenous communities are low socioeconomic areas; if their high schools operate these programs within the school they are providing a financially viable way for students to review a non-school qualification. Adapt curriculum to incorporate Indigenous cultural needs and wants Many Indigenous students have poor attendance because the school curriculum does not appeal to them, their family or their communities’ culture.
To have students actively engaged in school, both attendance and their education, the school syllabus needs to reflect the environment the children live in. Simple adoptions can make a large difference to a child’s education. For example, ensuring the level appropriate reading lists has Indigenous story books. There are a large range of Australian Indigenous children’s picture books and novels for older children that are written by Indigenous authors and based in Indigenous communities.
If a child is reading a book with a setting they’ve never encountered before, it will become difficult to engage the child in activities and it will become easier for the child to become disinterested in their education and as a result their attendance will decrease. Art and storytelling are prominent features of Australian Indigenous culture, so is spending time exploring the natural environment and learning valuable lessons from community Elders in regards to understanding the natural resources in the area, such as edible plants.
Unfortunately, these skills the children acquire in their home life aren’t reflected in school curriculum, making the children and their families feel not only that their culture isn’t valued, but attending school isn’t relevant to them and their community lifestyle. Encouraging more parent participation in children’s schooling It is easier for a child to attend school if the parent or guardian encourages, supports and helps further their education in the home. When parents are stringent on their child’s attendance, it assists the school in having the child attend each day. For a parent to be involved in the child’s formal learning, they must be a involved with the school community.
Schools and educators acknowledge that learning first comes from the home, and in the case of Indigenous culture, it comes from the wider community. It would be very fitting for the school in Indigenous communities to run community days and activities in which the children and their families can participate, making it easier for families to accept the school as part of the community. Financial assistance outside of school educational assistance Indigenous students can miss large portions of school during the time of Sorry Business. When Aboriginal people mourn the loss of a family member they practice Aboriginal death ceremonies, or Sorry Business.
The family will leave the community for an extended period of time, and if they choose to return to the community, they will move houses. This can cause a large amount of absence for a school child, or if they move to a new community, they may never enrol back into school again. It’s difficult for a child to catch up on such a prolonged absence. If, as part of the national plan for lack of Indigenous student absences, a funded educator could assist children a community centre, such as a religious place, health centre of community recreation centre to catch up on missed school work, it would be most beneficial.
This program could also be used to provide extra assistance to children who are falling behind in their school work, before they decide it’s too difficult and never return to school. Initiatives such as this are respectful to the culture, but also combat the issue of students not returning to school after prolonged absence. CONCLUSION It is important to first discover what is causing the problem, before deciding on a strategy to solve a problem. Indigenous communities need to find out from their youth what would encourage them to attend and be engaged at school. Education is a foundation for any community, whether it is developed or developing.
In the case of Australian Indigenous communities, school ages education doesn’t only assist a person achieve a qualification, it is important for social development, encouraging health and wellbeing in a community and will enhance future employment opportunities. There is a pressing need for an Australian Indigenous Education Reform. This need for reform is especially necessary in remote and northern, socially disadvantaged Australian communities where attendance rates are low, along with low academic outcomes by Australian national standards.
This reform needs to ensure consideration of Indigenous cultural needs and wants. Any recommendations that have been made, can be adapted to assist with similar situations in various countries with remote education being behind the national benchmark in major cities. REFERENCES Abs. gov. au. (2014). Indigenous statistics for schools. [online] Retrieved from: http://www. abs. gov. au/websitedbs/cashome. nsf/4a256353001af3ed4b2562bb00121564/95ed8 14872649b0dca25758b000314ef! OpenDocument [Accessed: 12 February].
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The Australian. Humanrights. gov. au. (2014). Statistical overview. [online] Retrieved from: http://www. humanrights. gov. au/publications/statistical-overview-aboriginal-and-torres-strait- islander-peoples-australia-social [Accessed: 12 February 2014]. Indigenous. gov. au. (2013). Minister scullion: government unveils plan to get remote indigenous children back to school | indigenous. gov. au. [online] Retrieved from: http://www. indigenous. gov. au/minister-scullion-government-unveils-plan-to-get-remote- indigenous-children-back-to-school/ [Accessed: 12 February 2014]. Kearns, K. (2010).
The business of childcare. Frenchs Forest, N. S. W. : Pearson Australia. Kearns, K. & Austin, B. (2007). Birth to big school. Frenchs Forest, N. S. W. : Pearson Education Australia. Mychild. gov. au. (2014). Programs for indigenous families | mychild. [online] Retrieved from: http://www. mychild. gov. au/pages/FamiliesProgIndigenousFam. aspx [Accessed: 3 January 2014]. Purdie, N. & Buckley, S. (2010). School attendance and retention of indigenous australian students. issues paper no. ERIC. Schlievs, M. (2011). Aboriginal children in remote areas ‘missing school for weeks’. The Australian, September.
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